A day to chill in San Luis Obispo
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - african proverb
Waking up in Arroyo Grande, I received a text message saying I would be able to stay for the night in Atascadero. But, not until tomorrow. A co-worker had a friend down there, and he had sent him a message about my trip. It wasn't far to Atascadero, which meant I had a full day of nothing ahead of me, and no place to stay for the night. My couch surfing host was up early as well. She made me a coffee, and we chatted in the kitchen while it rained.
The topic mostly stayed on my route for the rest of the way to San Francisco. She was worried about the wash out on HWY 1 near Big Sur. I googled route conditions, and it was listed as impassable. But, at this point, I didn't care. I didn't care about much actually. I started the trip making sure I always had cash, or extra snacks on me, but at this point I didn't even think about where to get food until I was hungry. I didn't worry too much about where I was going to stay for the night either. I didn't have a to-do list, or sights I needed to see. By the time I looked at the road conditions for the rest of the trip, I had crossed over into the state of mind I had wanted to be in. Carefree.
My host, being the exceptionally generous lady that she is, offered for me to stay another night. I tentatively accepted, hoping she wasn't overextending herself. She said it would be fine, as long as I was okay to join in on game night with the rest of her kids. Stoked, I said my goodbye for the day and headed to San Luis Obispo. I rode past farms, rain drizzling down, and cried with gratitude. It had been so long since I had time to feel anything other than stress or exhaustion. I nearly thought it was crazy to cry with joy. I said my thanks, and began looking for breakfast.
The outdoor patio of the cafe was covered from the tall trees, protecting it from the rain. A large group of friends were sitting with their coffees, and the loudest guy complimented me on my bike. Finding a table nearby, I spread my map out. The guy took it as an invitation, and came over to chat. He joined me in the game of finger tracing roads, hashing out details, and concocting alternate routes. We discussed heading towards the washout, and just going for it. Or, heading up into the hills, and taking the dirt route.
In the end, I decided I was going to bypass it all. There was a bus that left out of Paso Robles, and headed up HWY 101 to Soledad. It cost $3. It was that, or ride the highway for an entire day. Without a tent, and few places to stay, it was the best way to cover my ass and not get suck in the middle of nothing. I had to miss out on two beautiful days of coastal riding for a 6 mile washout.
Rain still falling, I spent the afternoon walking around SLO, looking for a fanny pack. I thought about seeing Cody in a couple days. Milling about, I also thought about my next big ride, and how I'd do it differently. I wouldn't have an arrival date, only a destination I needed to reach. Otherwise, you spend more time off the bike, just doing a whole lot of nothing. And, the tent is imperative, or you have to spend so much time planning, and adjusting your pace. Maybe a race would be next.
Changing back into my soggy riding gear, I headed back to join in on the game night I'd been promised. I cried on the way back too. Rain just makes everything look so beautiful. I squeaked in at 5pm, and had a chance to clean up before all the kids arrived. My host even let me toss my gear in the dryer, so I would have dry socks for the morning. Thankful, I started feeling a bit guilty for staying another night. I got self conscious. I was using her, without any intention of repaying. I started thinking, "you're a terrible guest for not bringing a cake or something to share with them," and "maybe I should leave cash or something to cover the cost of my food." I was in unfamiliar territory and didn't know how to navigate generosity.
It kind of fucked up my night. I felt like a schmuck, and just tried to get past it. This is how I should have handled it: when she was offering to let me stay another night, and invited me to join for dinner again, I should have then pulled my head out of my ass and offered to bring something back from town. Duh. If someone invites you to dinner, offer to bring something. That is 101 shit, but I was so wrapped up in thinking about my day, and forgot that courtesy, then got weird about it. Luckily, her oldest son arrived first, and immediately began talking a lot, which gave me a chance to break away from my self flagellation.
He worked in IT, a topic I knew nothing about, but decided it was a night to learn a few things. So, he and I chatted about his job, the complexities of it, and eventually arrived at how he has a stack of unwanted computers in his office and his room. At his job, computers fly in and out of the office with issues, that get repaired, but aren't wanted back. I really couldn't get a full grasp on it, but he interjected with offering to give me one. Did I need a computer? He asked. Why, funny you should mention it, I indeed do! Well, I was in luck - out from his room he brought the computer that I am now telling you this story through. In fact, this entire website is attributable to the computer I received that night.
As he set my profile up, dinner was about ready. I helped set the table, as the rest of the crew arrived. Four boys, a girlfriend, their mom, and me all playing cards at the table after we ate. And that is why Couch Surfing is great. You never know what you're going to get. Instead of shying away, I dug in and got to know them for the brief time that I would be a part of their lives. And tomorrow, I would do it all over again with a different stranger in Atascadero.